Both words for the emission of wind (fart and fist) were current in the Old Germanic languages. Frata and físa (the accent over the vowel designates its length, not stress) turned up even in Old Icelandic mythological poems. According to a popular tale, the great god Thor was duped by a giant and spent a night in a mitten, which he took for a house. He was so frightened, as his adversary put it, that he dared neither sneeze nor “fist.” In another poem, the goddess Freyja, notorious for her amatory escapades, was found in bed with her brother and farted (apparently shocked by the discovery).On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages
We begin with the paradoxical silence around the fart (16), the shame surrounding its emission, the silent-but-deadly fart (‘vesse’ Trust the Gallo-Romans to have a word for it!(17)), the Middle Ages’ ‘high comfort level’ with the fart, Roland the Farter’s feudal payment of one fart, medieval lack of privacy, proverbs about shit and defecation, the compulsion to use the scatological in elementary Latin grammatical education, the logic of the fart (how to divide one), the musical bum (both Boschian demons and proto-Pujolic pétomanes [already in Augustine]), farts elicited by movement, carminatives (18) charms to induce farting, its ‘audible violence,’ smell as the mediating sense (non-haptic), the stench of sin, sexual sedition in the privy, internal and external winds, breaths, spirits, and exhalations, microcosm and macrocosm, erections raised by air (not blood), farts as barometers of virility,(19) the death fart (crepitus mortis), the testamentary fart, the fart as Pentecostal spirit, the fart omen of Baby Hermes, death in the privy, Dante’s hell as intestinal, insect trials (p. 87), ubiquity of demons, anal death throes, exsufflatio at baptism, connections between gold and shit and alchemy, and ‘Duck-Rabbit, Face-Bottom’ (pp. 104–5), which comes out of nowhere and concludes the section primarily concerned with ‘laughter.’MeFi's own languagehat discusses the etymology of two kinds of fart.
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